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Monday, March 28, 2011

‘Celebrity Apprentice’ recap: who’s the crazy one now?

The two local “Celebrity Apprentice” contestants made Atlanta proud during Sunday night’s episode. As opposing project managers, both NeNe Leakes (for the women’s team ASAP) and Lil Jon (for the men’s team Backbone) created well-liked commercials for telecommunications company ACN.
Unfortunately, one team had to lose and it was NeNe’s. But NeNe was not on the chopping block. Instead, it was contentious, wearily stubborn 70-year-old Dionne Warwick.
While the concept of the show is really nothing more than “The Surreal Life” dressed up with business tasks, it does reveal interesting aspects of celebrities we wouldn’t otherwise see. Sadly for Warwick, a beloved R&B legend, we saw a cranky, unpleasant woman who didn’t always pull her weight on tasks.
During this task, Warwick’s downfall was deciding to cut out early on NeNe’s team while they were editing the commercial. In the boardroom, when she heard that Hope Dworaczyk and NeNe thought she was the weakest player, she threw up her hands and said no mas. Trump hates that type of behavior and she was out.
Even worse, after hugging NeNe goodbye outside the boardroom, she called NeNe a “coward, baby,” for not telling the truth. But NeNe was telling the truth. Dionne told her straight out, “I’m going!” and didn’t ask to leave, like she portrayed it.
In the post-elimination cab ride, Warwick showed her passive-aggressive nature by saying: “Sometimes ladies have a habit of not quite being straight up. I just don’t like craziness — unless I’m the crazy one!”
Otherwise, we saw the assertive, positive sides of NeNe we grew to love on “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” not her angry side. She was focused, on task and showed leadership skills as project manager. She delegated well and realized quickly that only Marlee Matlin and Star Jones on her team were really useful in terms of the real work. LaToya Jackson was left with time management while Hope and Dionne handled props.
During the boardroom, Matlin was deeply impressed by NeNe as a video director: “You’re one of the best directors I’ve ever worked with. She listens. She’s very approachable, very accommodating. She was a star!”
Trump joked, “You’re going to ruin your image!”
ACN wanted the two teams to create 30-second televised ads for its video phone. The teams took entirely different approaches. With the ACN executives emphasizing emotion over functionality, NeNe’s team decided to go the emotional route. They had a daughter in France kibitzing with her parents in the United States via video phone. Her mom happens to be a deaf, Academy Award-winning Marlee Matlin signing her way through a conversation. It worked.
But the men, led by Lil Jon, opted for humor. The set up is a son announcing to his parents that he is getting married  but the kicker is his fiance is a dude, a dude that looks like Jose Canseco. Canseco already wore a dress during the second challenge. Now he added eye liner and had his hair primped up to play “Pedro.” It was actually funny and management thought it could go viral.
Lil Jon, ever the MC, was a lively host, hyping up the ACN crowd. He also got praise from Richard Hatch, of all people, as a leader.”He was efficient. He was effective. The man manages beautifully. He tasks people. He listens to people. He organizes in a way that is commendable.”
Lil Jon defended his choice of commercial in the face of Trump’s contention they were being too risque. “I’ve been in business for many years,” he explained. “The people who succeed are those who take chances. ACN has all the same kinds of commercials. They came to us for something different. Their slogan is life without boundaries. That means thinking outside the box. If they don’t like this commercial, they need to change their slogan. I put all on black in Vegas. Sometimes, you gotta take chances!”
In the end, Lil Jon was right: 53 percent of the 450 ACN employees preferred the men’s commercial over the women’s safer route.
And Lil Jon won $40,000 for his charity: Decatur’s United Methodist Children’s Home, a safe haven for abused children and youth.
Other notable moments:
- The women at the start of the show were still reeling from the previous task, which cost them Niki Taylor. “We lost against Gary Busey,” NeNe exclaimed. “How did that happen?” Mark McGrath felt his team won despite Busey.
- The men kept bickering but shut up when the women came back.
- Hope has shown no signs of life after four challenges. Her personality (or lack thereof) has been utterly overshadowed. She will be gone soon enough.
- LaToya is being under-estimated, true that. She is a bit too quiet and low-key for this show but she showed a little fight when NeNe started carping on her.
- Busey continued to irritate Lil Jon and Meat Loaf with his inability to focus at times.
- Canseco is just plain strange, his facial tics notwithstanding. During the meeting with ACN executives, he asked whether they could do a commercial where someone communicates on the video phone to… aliens. And he seemed serious.
- Next week: Meat Loaf blows up against Busey!

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